“I wish we did not have to fritter away on frivolous things, like lectures and literature, the time we might have given to serious, solid and constructive work like cutting out cardboard figures and pasting coloured tinsel upon them” (G.K. Chesterton as quoted in Thomas Peters, The Christian Imagination, p. 10).
“This high view of preaching has consequences. Christians are people of the Word, and as a result they are people of words. They are people of the enscripturated Word, and the preached word. We love the Truth, and this is why we must necessarily love truths. The flip side of this is that when a love for the Lord Jesus declines, one of the first places it manifests itself is in an obvious contempt for words. Words become little lumps of neutral playdough, on which a dishonest heart can exercise its creativity. But really the source of this rebellion in the little things, and the final direction of it, is hostility to the ultimate Word” (Mother Kirk, pp. 72-73).
“Many have hidden their eyes from those truths that would have kept them from conformity because they foresaw what said consequences would follow, if their consciences should not suffer them to conform” (Burroughs, Irenicum, p. 94).
There is no way to talk about the growing threat posed by Islam without addressing the topic of Israel and the Jews. And this highlights an important feature of this series of messages. Although the Bible says nothing about Mohammed or Islam, it says a great deal about many of the issues that Islam forces us to deal with. He would be a foolish man who said that Bible doesn’t have much to say about the Jews.
“For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert grated contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?”
In this section of Romans 11, the apostle Paul is using the illustration of an olive tree (the Abrahamic covenant) to describe the relationship of Jews and Gentiles. Now that the Messiah of Israel had come, and the majority of the Jews had rejected Him, they had been cut out of that covenant. Gentiles, on the basis of faith alone, were grafted into this cultivated olive tree, and through the power of God, the graft “took.” Notice that the Old Testament era and the New Testament era are not represented by two different kinds of trees, the Jews being an olive tree and the Gentiles a peach tree. No, the Gentiles were grafted into a tree the roots of which go back into Old Testament antiquity, and ethnic Israel was cut out because of their unbelief. Note the apostle’s argument here: if wild olive brances can be successfully grafted into this tree, how much more can ex-branches be grafted in? Jews will at some point turn back to Christ.
From the outset, we have to distinguish between what is said about the Jews and what is said about Zionism. Hostility to Jews as such is anti-Semitism. Disagreement with the view that Israel has a divine mandate to hold the land on the eastern end of the Mediterranean is anti-Zionist. To be anti-Zionist is not to be anti-Semitic; indeed, many Jews are not Zionists.
There are two additional complications. One is caused by a school of thought within Protestantism called dispensationalism. Most evangelicals in the United States today are dispensational to some extent. One of the features of this theology is the sharp distinction between Israel and the Church, with both operating under the favor of God at different times in history. It is widely held among dispensationalists that the promises of God to Abraham concerning the land are valid today. This has led to a strong element of Christian Zionism in America today.
The second complication has been created by the passage of time. Zionism led to the creation of the state of Israel (what many Muslims call “the Zionist entity”). Zionism was gradually building for a hundred years before the Holocaust, and it culminated in the creation of Israel in 1948. This is just another way of saying that there were Jews moving back to Palestine at the same time that whites were settling in Idaho. The fact that we live here now does not make us adherents of Manifest Destiny (the doctrine that first landed us here), and the fact that someone wants to recognize that Israel has been a nation for 59 years now does not make him a Zionist.
We have to sort this out in our minds. In an otherwise fine book on the threat posed by the rise of Muslim influence in Great Britain (Londonistan), the author says this: “The real motor behind the Church’s engine of Israeli delegitimization is theology—or, to be more precise, the resurgence of a particular theology that had long been officially consigned to ignominy. This is ‘replacement theology,’ sometimes known also as ‘supercessionism,’ a doctrine going back to the early Church Fathers and stating that all God’s promises to the Jews—including the land of Israel—were forfeit because the Jews had denied the divinity of Christ” (p. 152). The problem here is that historic Reformed theology holds that the Church is the rightful heir of all the promises given to Israel—see our text. But it does not follow from this that we are anti-Semitic, or that our disagreement with Christian Zionism requires us to want to uproot Israel now. A man can believe that the Nez Perce were badly treated without wanting to march all the citizens of Idaho today back to the east coast. God’s grace comes to us where we are, not where we should have been.
No Political Solutions:
When we are faced with a problem as intractable as this one, we cry out instinctively to our gods, asking them to save us. We look to continued support for Israel from the United States, or aid to the Palestinians from Europe, or a stern resolution from the United Nations. But why do we look to these entities to solve the problem when they were the ones who created it? Britain created the problem (the Balfour Declaration in 1917), the United Nations sealed it in concrete (1948), and the United States has helpfully stepped in to take the grizzly bear by the ears, a position we occupy down to the present. Besides war with Iran, now what?
We are Christians, and we believe that all men are sinners. We are therefore not interested in whitewashing the sins or blunders of any faction or party. Any Christian who belives, as an article of civic faith, that the United States and Israel are incapable of mistakes, gross blunders, sins, or moral atrocities, is not thinking like a Christian. At the same time, we need to make a distinction between atrocities hypocritically denied and atrocities openly avowed. A Christian worldview does not require us to make a moral equivalence where there is not one.
Islam and the Jews:
We have seen that non-Zionism need not be anti-Semitic, and for believing Christians, it must not be. But Muslim opposition to Jews and Israel is virulently anti-Semitic, and this attitude is grounded in the Koran. So long as the Koran is considered to be the word of Allah, this aspect of the problem will not be solved. The final (and binding) revelation given to Mohammed about the Jews (and Christians) was this: “Make war on them until idolatry shall cease and God’s religion shall reign supreme” (Surah 8:39).
Christians have to engage with the political realities of the world. But they must never leave behind the gospel as they do so. Israelis need to start trusting in Jesus, their Messiah. Muslims need to repent, and they need to come to Jesus. As mentioned before, this is not self-serving—Christians need to start believing in Jesus also. Jesus Christ is the prince of peace, and until He is acknowledged (and He will be), there will be no solution to the sinful mess we have created in the Middle East.
In his talk on Andrew Fuller at the 2007 Desiring God pastors’ conference, John Piper had this to say.
I just tuned into the debate between R. Scott Clark and Doug Wilson over at Scott’s blog, Heidelblog, and there were elements of it that relate directly to Fuller’s response to Sandemanianism (though no one there would be in the category of a Sandemanian).
I would be interested to hear from anyone who listens to the audio whether or not John Piper amplifies this comment at all.
Mark Steyn calls them ecochondriacs — people who are convinced of global warming and who are wailing on their guitars and beating their statist drums to a tune that Foreigner made popular way back in the day. URGENT. Unless we all take action NOW, we are all going to DIE, and it won’t FUNNY THEN. And ACTION NOW means, remarkably enough, that we need to sign over all kinds of additional authority to the state. Because if we don’t, all the ice is going to melt and you will soon be able to go to the New Atlantic City in Pennsylvania somewhere. You get the drift.
This claptrap is being sold to us at the very time when Chicago has frozen clean solid through, and so the language has had to be adapted slightly. Now we must fear “global climate change.” In the seventies SCIENCE warned us that we were facing a new ice age and great peril awaited us. Now SCIENCE tells us that we are heating right up and this also is perilous. But then things got really cold in a bunch of places, and scientific laymen were starting to ask questions that betrayed their ignorance, but were still kind of hard to answer anyway, like “how can it be heating up when it is getting colder?” So that brought us global climate change, so that no matter what happens, the evidence fits. Voila!
The only thing that could get any more noodles in this farrago of nonsense would be to have a bunch of evangelicals clamber on board and demand that we all go along with this scienti-hooey in the name of Jesus. Yep, right on schedule. The list of signatories includes a number of the usual suspects.
“With that, we can see that ‘Islam: Empire of Faith’ [a PBS special] totally covers up the truth about Mohammed—that he was a marauder, stealing other people’s property, having one innocent after another assassinated, ordering several hundred Jewish men beheaded, condemning captive women to spend their entire lives serving him and his followers as sex slaves, and selling hundreds of free Jewish boys into slavery” (Richardson, Secrets of the Koran, p. 126).
“The Reformers not only revered their biblical heritage, but recovered its energies, its acids, its spices, its ‘red wine and cheese’, the sting and zing of the Magnificat. We should therefore be chary of assuming that a more verbal spirituality, which Protestantism undoubtedly was, was necessarily more bookish or intellectual. It commuted between the lofty discourse of the classics and the rude simplicities of the venacular. The living Word which Luther talking about, emerged from a filthy stable and ended on a foul cross. Theology was worked out in the study, certainly, but above all in living, dying, being damned” Theologia crucis” (Matheson, The Imaginative World of the Reformation, p. 127).